Grambling State University Investigates Pictures of Noose Lesson

Officials at Grambling State University were meeting Monday after the school newspaper ran photographs of adults at a campus-run elementary school putting a noose around at least one child's neck.

Kindergarten and first-grade students at Alma J. Brown Elementary School were being taught why nooses are a symbol of racism, an article from the historically black university's student newspaper said.

The article said the children also were being taught about the "Jena Six" — black high-school students who are accused of beating a white schoolmate. Court proceedings brought about 20,000 to 25,000 people to Jena, about 70 miles from Grambling, for a civil rights march in September.

A press release posted on the Gramblinite's Web site said three photographs from the event were removed after a staff conference call. Ten others were re-posted to the site Monday after the university's president ordered the removal of all the photos and the story over the weekend, according to the Gramblinite press release.

"The Gramblinite only did what our motto stands for: 'We don't make the news; we report it,'" said De'Eric M. Henry, the paper's editor in chief. "We do not approve of censorship or prior review, and we stand by our editorial decision to inform the students of Grambling State University of news events that effect them on campus, in the community and everywhere."

The Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have said the charges were too heavy for the actions and that three white students who were suspended after hanging nooses from a tree on the school campus three months earlier should have been expelled and prosecuted.

The date of the Grambling incident was not clear and the photos that showed nooses had been removed from the site.

University President Horace Judson said he ordered photos removed from the Web site as soon as his secretary called him Friday to describe them. At the time, he said, he was driving to Dallas for Saturday's football game against Prairie View.

Judson told The News Star of Monroe and the Ruston Daily Leader on Friday that he was starting an investigating immediately, and would meet Monday morning with everyone involved.

It is at least the second time this year The Gramblinite has tangled with school administrators.

Provost Robert Dixon ordered the newspaper on Jan. 17 to stop publication, a move criticized as censorship by alumni, the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va. and Gramblinite editor Darryl Smith. He accused Dixon of trying to block editorials criticizing the school's maintenance and suggesting the state was trying to shut down the university.

Eight days later, Dixon said the newspaper had provided a satisfactory plan to end what he said was shoddy editing and plagiarism, and the paper could resume publication the following week.

The brief Gramblinite article about the elementary schoolyard "march" said teachers "even had a replica noose and explained why it is such a symbol of racism," but did not mention that the noose was put around anyone's neck. That was shown in photographs, which The News Star of Monroe obtained by e-mail and e-mailed with the article to The Associated Press.

The Daily Leader, which does not have a Saturday edition, also published an article about the incident online Saturday, saying it was not using Grambling photographs because of copyright considerations and to protect the child's privacy.

It said the student paper sent it copies of pictures and the article Friday morning, but later asked it not to use the photographs removed from the Web site.

One shows a young girl in a school uniform being held up by a woman while someone else, mostly hidden by a tree, holds a noose around her neck and up to a branch.

The article said kindergarten and first-grade students circled their playground with their teachers as a "march" to protest "the imprisonment of Mychal Bell, and the seemingly racial bias shown toward blacks in a small Louisiana town."

Judson said Sean Warner, dean of the College of Education, has spoken with the principal of the elementary school about the incident.

"This is very serious. I will say that," Judson told The News Star. "I'll have a face-to-face meeting with everyone involved. We're going to find out what the facts are. At this point I don't know if my students were involved.

"These are minors at our school and this is a student paper that still must practice complete accountability," he said.

Given the nature of the situation, Judson said, "it was certainly my judgment to take those pictures down."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.